Courts

Friday, October 19, 2018

Public Defender's Office: New Trial Denied Despite 'Conclusive Evidence' of Jury Misconduct

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 7:43 PM

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The Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office contends that Jon David Goldberg, who was sentenced this afternoon for the murder of a Fortuna volunteer firefighter, was denied a new trial despite “conclusive evidence” of jury misconduct.

A press release by the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office also states that visiting Judge Graham Cribbs closed proceedings on the matter over defense objections, which were “based on the belief that one of the primary reasons we have open courts is to ensure transparency in our system, and that transparency is essential to the protection of due process.”

”Unfortunately, the public did not get to see any part of a proceeding in this case that dealt with a crucial aspect of due process, the right to a fair and impartial jury,” the release states.

Goldberg was sentenced to 15 years to life for fatally shooting Timothy Smith outside of his Rohnerville Road home Sept. 26, 2016, shortly after finding out that the 42-year-old father of two had an affair with his wife.

Read more about today’s hearing here.


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UPDATE: Judge Denies New Trial, Sentences Goldberg to Prison

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 5:14 PM

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Visiting Judge Graham Cribbs sentenced Jon David Goldberg to 15 years to life in prison this afternoon for the murder of volunteer Fortuna firefighter Tim Smith but struck down a firearm enhancement that would have added 25 years to his term.

He handed down his decision after denying Goldberg’s petition for a new trial following a week of essentially conducting “a trial within a trial,” in which 11 of the 12 jurors were questioned about their conduct in the case to probe defense allegations of misconduct by panel members.

The judge also gave a 15-minute soliloquy about overseeing the trial, including how much he enjoyed his time in Humboldt, saying, “it’s mind-boggling to think things like this can happen over something ... I would say was foolish” and several versions of the sentiment that “we are all human beings, we all have failings.”

Goldberg was found guilty in March of fatally shooting Smith outside of his Rohnerville Road home Sept. 26, 2016, shortly after finding out that the 42-year-old father of two had an affair with his wife, a situation Cribbs made veiled references to in his courtroom address.

The Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office contends that Goldberg was denied a new trial despite “conclusive evidence” of jury misconduct. Read more here.

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Judge Sentences Goldberg to 15 Years to Life, Denies New Trial

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 3:38 PM

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Visiting Judge Graham Cribbs sentenced Jon David Goldberg to 15 years to life in prison this afternoon for murdering volunteer Fortuna firefighter Tim Smith but struck down a firearm enhancement that would have added 25 years to his term.

He handed down his decision after denying Goldberg’s petition for a new trial following a week of essentially conducting “a trial within a trial,” in which 11 of the 12 jurors were questioned about their conduct in the case to probe defense allegations of misconduct by panel members.

The Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office contends that Goldberg was denied a new trial despite “conclusive evidence” of jury misconduct. Read more here.

A press release by the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office also states that Cribbs closed proceedings on the matter over defense objections, which were “based on the belief that one of the primary reasons we have open courts is to ensure transparency in our system, and that transparency is essential to the protection of due process.”


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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Teen Stabbing Suspect to Be Tried as Juvenile Under Bill Signed by Brown

Posted By on Sun, Oct 14, 2018 at 10:20 AM

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The murder case against a 15-year-old accused of fatally stabbing another teenage boy in the Ocean View Cemetery on Aug. 9 will continue in the juvenile court system after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last week that prohibits charging individuals as adults if they were younger than 16 at the time of the accused crime.

As reported by the Lost Coast Outpost, a hearing had been scheduled for next week on whether the teen suspect, who is charged with murder, should be tried as an adult in the death of 16-year-old Brandon Brocious. His mother Lorna Leen is also charged with murder and both have pleaded not guilty. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in the case and obtained by the Journal, Brocious was stabbed during a confrontation with the suspect and his mother over a stolen cell phone. During the argument, Leen reportedly held back a teenage girl who was with Brocious while her son stabbed him.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Huffman, Other Dems Call For Postponement of Kavanaugh Nomination Process

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 10:49 AM

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On the same morning Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about a high school party at which she says U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, Congressman Jared Huffman called for his confirmation proceedings to be postponed.

In a letter signed by Huffman and 65 other Democratic members of Congress, the representatives called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to suspend the process until the FBI can conduct a thorough investigation into Ford’s account, as well as those of other women who have now come forward.

“We urge you to give these allegations the respect and seriousness they deserve,” the letter states. “Anything short of that is an insult to women and girls everywhere and sends a chilling message that survivors should not come forward because they will not be believed.”

Kavanaugh, who has denied the allegations, is scheduled to testify later today.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Suspected Coke Dealer Fails to Appear in Court

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 1:02 PM

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A $200,000 arrest warrant was issued this morning for Ariel Arguelles-Sosa after he failed to show at a bail review hearing requested by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office to raise concerns about whether his bail was procured from drug money, according to a media report.

Arguelles-Sosa was arrested Aug. 30 in what officials described as “one of the largest Humboldt County cocaine seizures in recent history” after special agents with the Humboldt County Drug Task Forced served search warrants at his Arcata home and business.
Ariel Arguelles-Sosa
  • Ariel Arguelles-Sosa

The task force reported finding just under three pounds of suspected cocaine, two ounces of methamphetamine, and four ounces of heroin at his Ponderosa Way residence, along with $65,000 in cash and two vehicles “believed to be the proceeds of narcotics sales,” according to an earlier news release.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Contrary to Report, DA Sees 'No Legal Basis' to Appeal Kitchen Sentence

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 1:54 PM

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Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming has no plans to challenge the eight-year prison sentence that Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kaleb Cockrum handed down to Marci Kitchen last week for the 2016 DUI crash that killed two teenage girls, including Kitchen's own daughter.

In the last few days, you may have read a piece wildly opining about how the court and prosecutors "absolutely got it wrong" in determining Kitchen’s prison sentence and suggesting the district attorney’s office has grounds to appeal Kitchen’s sentence. The argument is wrong.

“We are not considering filing a sentencing appeal,” Fleming wrote in an email to the Journal. “We don’t have a legal basis for filing one.”

The erroneous legal theory — which was penned by local attorney Allan Dollison and posted, apparently without any vetting or fact checking,  by a local blog, from where it has been shared on social media — posited that Cockrum’s sentence failed to impose a sentence on Kitchen that accounted for both victims in the case — Kiya Kitchen and Faith Tsarnas, both 14. But Dollison’s take on the case, which he was uninvolved in, is incorrect.

When sentencing Kitchen, Cockrum imposed a two-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence, a one-year enhancement for the existence of an additional victim and a five-year enhancement for fleeing the scene of a fatal crash, for a total term of eight years. While none of the time Kitchen serves in prison will be related to the second count of vehicular manslaughter to which she pleaded guilty — the sentence imposed by Cockrum does account for both victims.

And if Cockrum had instead opted to sentence both counts of vehicular manslaughter, it would have resulted in a prison term that was four months shorter than the one imposed, due to state sentencing law that requires subsequent counts to be sentenced at one-third of the midterm sentence in California's determinant sentencing triad.

According to Fleming, prosecutors did a lot of research in order to charge the case in a way that resulted in maximum exposure for Kitchen.

“I might note that the California penal and vehicle codes do include considerably complexity that can create many charging alternatives,” she wrote the Journal. “We have substantial in-house expertise to address this complexity. Also, we do not hesitate to consult state-level experts when they might identify alternatives that would further promote justice. In the Kitchen case, we consulted with someone who has handled hundreds of vehicular manslaughter cases and taught classes on that topic.”

Cockrum could have imposed a harsher sentence on Kitchen by giving her the aggravated term for the principle vehicular manslaughter charge, which would have added two years to her prison sentence. However, doing so would have given Kitchen the option of taking back her guilty pleas and proceeding to trial in the case. Cockrum also mentioned at Kitchen's sentencing that he felt she showed remorse for her crimes, which, coupled with the fact that she had no criminal record prior to her arrest in this case, likely played a part in his imposing the midterm sentence.

A Journal email to Dollison pointing out the mistake in his argument went unreturned. Meanwhile, the local blogger’s post presenting Dollison’s take without challenge remains. 
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Kitchen Sentenced to Eight Years in DUI Manslaughter Case

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 at 3:47 PM

Marci Kitchen - HCSO
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Judge Kaleb Cockrum sentenced Marci Kitchen this afternoon to eight years in state prison for fatally hitting two teenage girls, including her daughter, while driving drunk on July 12, 2016, ending an emotionally charged case that has spanned more than two years.

Cockrum  handed down the sentence at the conclusion an emotional hearing that spanned most of the day, with people on both sides of the case addressing the court with prepared statements.

Kiya Kitchen and her friend Faith Tsarnas — best friends born just 25 days apart — were both 14 when they were struck from behind while skateboarding at dusk on Eel River Drive. Tsarnas died at the Fortuna crash site and Kiya Kitchen’s death followed a day later at a Bay Area hospital.

After numerous delays in the case, Kitchen suddenly pleaded guilty as charged Aug. 20, admitting to two charges of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, one count of driving under the influence causing injury and one count of fleeing the scene of an injury crash, as well as seven special allegations just before she was set to stand trial.

Two weeks later, Kitchen voluntarily surrendered the $750,000 bail bond that had kept her out of custody. She has been in jail since Sept. 3, held in isolation for her protection, according to officials.

The defense had urged probation for Kitchen, who has no previous criminal record, while the prosecution asked Cockrum to sentence her to 11 years and four months in prison, what the district attorney’s office considered the maximum term in the case. A matter of contention between the two sides, her defense had placed Kitchen’s maximum exposure at seven years and eight months.

Check back for more from today's sentencing hearing.
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Kitchen Makes Brief Court Appearance, Being Jailed in Isolation for her Safety

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 11:50 AM

Marci Kitchen - HCSO
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Marci Kitchen — who voluntarily surrendered her bail bond yesterday and was booked into the Humboldt County jail — appeared briefly in court this morning before returning to the jail, where she is being held in isolation for her safety.

After Kitchen left the courtroom, Judge Kaleb Cockrum indicated that she is now being held without bail until her sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 18. Kitchen’s attorney, Interim Conflict Counsel Meagan O’Connell, indicated to the court that her client intends to read a statement at the time of her sentencing, which would constitute the first time she has made a public comment since hitting and killing two 14-year-old girls — one of them her daughter — while driving drunk shortly after dusk July 12, 2016, on Eel River Drive.

As we reported yesterday, Kitchen voluntarily surrendered her bail bond and committed herself to the Humboldt County jail yesterday afternoon. Max Hadley, who the court recently appointed to be Kitchen’s mitigation specialist, told the Journal that Kitchen made the decision in an effort to “take responsibility.”

Kitchen pleaded guilty as charged in the case on Aug. 20, admitting to two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, one count of driving under the influence causing an injury and one count of fleeing the scene of an injury crash, as well as seven special allegations. When sentenced on Sept. 18, prosecutors believe she faces a maximum penalty of 11 years in state prison, though she is also eligible to receive probation.

Hadley told the Journal after this morning’s hearing that Kitchen is being held in isolation at the jail because jail staff fears for her safety.

“She did not make that request and we did not make it for her,” Hadley said. “But I think there’s good reason for them to do that.”

During this morning’s hearing, Cockrum also granted a pair of requests from local media to take video footage and photographs of Kitchen’s sentencing hearing. Cockrum also reportedly said he would inquire about broadcasting the sentencing hearing in Supervisors Chambers on the courthouse’s first floor in anticipation that a larger crowd may attend the hearing than the courtroom can accommodate.
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Monday, September 3, 2018

Kitchen Surrenders, Won't Contest Being Jailed Until Sentencing in Manslaughter Case

Posted By on Mon, Sep 3, 2018 at 7:50 PM

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Marci Kitchen voluntarily surrendered her bail bond and turned herself into the Humboldt County jail today and, according to her court appointed mitigation specialist, will not contest prosecutors’ efforts to keep her behind bars until she is sentenced later this month on charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Humboldt County jail staff said that Kitchen was booked into the jail today. Reached this evening, Max Hadley, who the court recently appointed to be Kitchen's mitigation specialist, confirmed that Kitchen had voluntarily surrendered her bond in an effort to "take responsibility."

Kitchen pleaded guilty as charged in the case Aug. 20, admitting that she was driving drunk when she struck and killed two 14-year-old girls, one of whom was her daughter, on Eel River Drive shortly after dusk July 12, 2016, and fled the scene. She had remained free after posting $750,000 bail in the case but is due in court tomorrow morning for a custody hearing at which prosecutors are expected to argue that she should be held in jail until her sentencing hearing, when she faces a maximum sentence of up to 11 years in state prison, according to prosecutors, but could be released on probation.

Hadley said Kitchen made the decision to voluntarily surrender her bond.

“She decided she was going to do what she has wanted to do all along, which was take responsibility for this and start serving her time now,” Hadley said. “Her lawyers never would let her talk about this case or take responsibility because they felt the case could be litigated, so she was never able to do this because her lawyers advised against it.”

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